I will never learn your name, and I will never forget having to justify my existence to you as you were about to end it. You may not remember me at all, but I don't I will ever forget you. But I don't hate you, or anyone else sharing your ideals and/or your uniform. For years though, I have been stricken with fear at your existence after this incident, like you have been because of my existence. Then I realized that you and I are not so different. We both fear the unknown, we fear the things that have traumatized us, although in different ways. The difference between us is that you chose to lay your hand on your gun asking if I meant ill to your country while I make sure to walk the other way anytime anyone in a uniform walks towards me. You chose action, and now, a few years after police brutality has become mainstream I know that I got away easy, that laying a hand on your gun simply because I said I was Palestinian is almost an act of kindness in the face of what could've actually happened.
I have feared you for far too long, but now I see the humanity in you, the fear and anger, unjustified but understood. I don't walk away from the uniform anymore, even though I know that my life can be over in an instant, forgotten with the memories of our interaction and all other interactions I had or will ever have. The essence of who I am will be replaced with the version of me you choose to depict to the world, and then, only then will you have entire control of who I am. But I am not the version of me that you create after ending me, because I am not the me you have chosen to fear because the media tells you to. I am not the man you think I am. I am not the man you would fear or hate, just like Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Freddie Grey are not the individuals that others with or without a uniform have fabricated and dressed in the worst possible ways. We are not who you think we are. And I will not sit here and try to justify it. I will not invest in communicating my humanity in any other way. I can not make you any more compassionate and accepting than you are, only you can do that. So Officer, I kindly ask you to remove your hand from your gun, take a deep breath and think about what you're doing. You're about to raise your gun at a twenty year old that you found bleeding, in a ditch on the side of the highway. Forget your instincts to kill this foreigner, forget that you're being watched by the hundreds of cars passing by us, and look at me. Look at me bleeding, look into my hazel eyes, look into all that I am, past my skin color, past my passport, past my name, past my religion, and ask yourself do I deserve to die?
I am scared of what your answer might be, and so might you. But many have answered before you, and some have died because of the answer or because we couldn't answer the question.
Today, I got to my hotel, exhausted after a long day at work. I wanted to take a quick nap before getting back to work before my last day on this visit, but instead I saw this on my newsfeed, and despite myself I remembered you, five thousand miles away, almost three years later. My heart no longer breaks at these stories, it ceases to exist, and for a moment the dumbness I have learned to grow out of returns. For a moment, I cease to exist, I can't breathe and I can't be as I am without being influenced by who you believe I am. Your opinion of me shouldn't matter and it doesn't, but the weight on my nonexistent chest at that moment is too hard to bear, because we've been here before and we'll be here again. Someday I wonder if you'll show up on my news feed after a long day at work, I might be right where you are or thousands of miles away.
I don't believe you or any other officers are horrible individuals, even the ones in this video that allowed three girls to cease to exist in those moments that they stood by and did nothing. But you, all of you, are monuments we are taught to respect and glorify. We are taught to feel safe simply because you exist. We are taught that there is a tomorrow because you'll be there. Perhaps just like you've created a depiction of who I am, we as a society have depicted you as heroes in a world filled with villains. Perhaps we've always been wrong, and our expectations of you should never have been this high. Because where are you? Where are you in fighting for a better world? Where are you in protecting us from this very hate and fear? I have met some amazing individuals in uniform. Actually the one that replaced you that day was one of them. But where are you? Because in my head, you as the hero that upholds our safety and justice would stand up to all of this. So where are you?
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the co-founder and Director of Mental Health for Muslim Community Link, A Global Compliance Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of lifeinmydays.com. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness wherever he is through his writing, workshops and speaker events.